Last week, I talked about the diaphragm and breathing.
What I glossed over was the diaphragm’s BFF, the pelvic floor.
If you’ve had a kid and a coresponding pelvic floor issue, you’re probably familiar with why the pelvic floor is important. If you’re not so familiar, here are the cliff notes.
Your pelvic floor (PF) is a group of muscles in the basin of the pelvis. They play a role in keeping your organs inside you, pelvic stability and sexual performance. Both men and women have a PF, but women have two openings in their pelvic floor, where men only have one, which is one reason why women have more PF problems.
You PF needs an appropriate amount of strength and tension to work well. When it’s too loose or too tight, you’ll get problems, with the most common ones being incontinence (e.g. peeing when you jump, sneeze or cough), sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain. It can also correlate with poor core control and back pain.
*Interestingly, the issues associated with having a PF that is too tight or too loose are mostly the same. The significant difference is that in the case of extreme PF dysfunction where the muscles are too loose, you’ll get organ prolapse.
And because they’re muscles, your PF can be trained similarly to other muscles via contraction and relaxation, but they’re not exactly a bicep, so how do you target them?
Your MD might tell you “kegels,” which isn’t wrong. Numerous gold standard studies have proven kegels help with pelvic floor health. However, like all things, execution matters, so I wanted to give you some specific strategies to train this area.
First, let’s talk about how a pelvic floor contraction or kegel works.
Ideally, when we inhale our diaphragm contracts and our deep core and pelvic floor relaxes. Then when we exhale our diaphragm relaxes and the deep core and pelvic floor gently contracts (think a 3 out of 10).
But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the pelvic floor and deep core fail to relax or conversely they fail to contract. This makes breath is a great place to tune into pelvic floor timing, because you can focus both the contraction and the relaxation phase.
Additionally, your PF is neighbors with the muscles that externally rotate your hips and the inner thighs, so working in gentle turn out or targeting the inner thighs can help increase PF engagement, even if you don’t think about contracting the PF.
But all of this makes more sense when you experience it. Which brings me to today’s video. Three simple exercises that you can do to train your pelvic floor.
Some of them you might already have been doing, so with a simple switch up in your focus, you can stick to your regular workout and reap the additional benefits of pelvic floor training!
Pelvic floor exercises to make kegels more effective
As a final note, even if you don’t have an active pelvic floor problem, tuning into that area can help prevent challenges later down the line.
Conversely, if you suspect your pelvic floor issue is more complicated than a little weakness or tightness, there are pelvic floor physical therapists out there who do amazing work, so know you don’t have to live with the discomfort.